The move comes after a proposed overhaul triggered major demonstrations in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has softened his proposed reform to the judicial system following protests by hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the past two months. Netanyahu held a phone call with US President Joe Biden the day before announcing the step, with the American leader reportedly calling for compromise.
Netanyahu’s coalition government issued a statement on Monday that contained several amendments to the original version of the legis...morelation put forward on January 4. Among other things, the latest iteration envisages fewer government representatives in the Judicial Selection Committee – the body that appoints judges to Israeli courts – than was originally proposed.
The Israeli PM urged parliamentary opponents of the reform to abandon their plans to boycott ratification votes, and asked them to end their calls for further protests.
“We are extending a hand to anyone who genuinely cares about national unity and the desire to reach an agreed accord,” the coalition government statement read.
Israel nearing civil war – president
Netanyahu insists that he is seeking to ensure balance among government branches through his plan to change the way judges are selected, although critics have claimed the proposals risk limiting the independence of courts.
On Sunday, the White House said that President Biden had spoken by phone with Netanyahu, emphasizing that “democratic values… must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship.” The US leader also stressed the importance of “genuine checks and balances” in a democratic society.
“The president offered support for efforts underway to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent with those core principles,” the statement added.
According to several media outlets, citing an anonymous US official, Biden had expressed “concern” over the planned overhaul of Israel’s judicial system.
Appearing on a radio talk show on Friday, Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, compared the left-wing protesters to the paramilitary wings of the Nazis in Germany and fascists in Italy during the 1930s.
He accused the demonstrators of creating chaos in the streets, having previously branded them “domestic terrorists.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned in a video address last Wednesday that the nation risks sliding into civil war over the contentious judicial reform plan. Herzog suggested a set of alternative measures, which Netanyahu was quick to reject....
Washington is still ordering Islamists to attack Assad’s forces, Moscow’s spy chief has claimed
The US is still working with Islamic State terrorists and other Islamist groups to carry out attacks against Bashar Assad’s government forces in Syria, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief, Sergey Naryshkin, has claimed.
According to an SVR report released on Monday, the US military’s Al-Tanf base in southern Syria is coordinating subversive activities, with the actions of terrorist groups being planned by representativ...morees of the Central Command of the US Armed Forces as well as US intelligence officers.
The SVR stated that a special role has been assigned to the so-called Free Syrian Army, which consists of Kurdish and Arab detachments operating in the central and northeast parts of Syria. “Through them, the Americans and their British allies are working with the underground formations of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] that still remain in remote areas of the country,” it was alleged.
“ISIS was instructed to incite hostilities in the Syrian south-west (the provinces of Suwayda and Deraa), in the central part of the country (Homs) and east of the Euphrates River (Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor). For this, it is planned to form several detachments of radicals with a total number of about 300 people. After special training, they will be involved in attacks on military facilities in Syria and Iran,” the statement added.
US training terrorists to target Russia – Moscow
The SVR claims that the US also intends to use terroristsin the region around the capital, Damascus, to conduct tasks such as kidnapping Russian and Iranian servicemen.
In addition to coordinating the actions of Islamist groups, Washington is providing terrorists with weapons, according to the SVR. Several dozen four-wheel-drive pickup trucks with heavy machine guns, as well as a number of rocket systems such as NLAW ATGMs, TOWs, and Igla MANPADS are set to be handed over to fighters in the near future, the report alleged.
Washington’s actions put it “on the same level” as Islamic terrorists and IS militants, and is a manifestation of state terrorism, the SVR argued.
In February, the SVR reported that the US was using Islamist extremists to plan terrorist attacks in Russia and former Soviet republics. Washington has been training as many as 60 terrorists at the Al-Tanf base to make improvised explosive devices and use them to target diplomats, public officials, law enforcement officers, and military personnel, the intelligence service claimed....
The first such drills in five years are taking place against the backdrop of North Korea’s protests and nearly daily missile launches
The US and South Korean militaries have embarked on a large-scale joint exercise aimed at practicing amphibious landings, South Korean media has reported. The drills, which are part of the ongoing ‘Freedom Shield’ maneuvers, went ahead despite Pyongyang’s repeated warnings.
On Monday, South Korea’s KBS TV channel, citing the country’s military, reported that the ‘Ssangyong&rsqu...moreo; drills had kicked off on the eastern coast in North Gyeongsang Province, and are expected to conclude on April 3. The outlet said they are the first after a five-year hiatus, with entire divisions taking part this time instead of just brigades.
The exercise features more than 30 vessels from both countries, 70 aircraft, including F-35B stealth fighters and AH-64 attack helicopters, as well as 50 amphibious assault vehicles.
Last week, the Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean military officials as saying that the ‘Ssangyong’ maneuvers were intended to demonstrate the “overwhelming” capabilities of the partner nations.
“The upcoming training will demonstrate the South Korea-US alliance’s will to realize ‘peace through strength’,” Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Kim Gye-hwan was quoted as explaining.
North Korea simulates tactical nuclear strike
According to Yonhap, participating in the drills for the first time are several dozen British marines, with military personnel from Australia, France and the Philippines observing them.
Meanwhile, North Korea said on Monday that it had test-fired a missile “tipped with a test warhead simulating a nuclear payload” over the weekend, demonstrating Pyongyang’s firepower and readiness to respond to any “reckless moves” by Washington and Seoul.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted the country’s leader Kim Jong-un arguing that “it is only when the North is fully equipped with a nuclear attack posture that it can carry out its important strategic mission of deterring war.”
Kim watched Sunday morning’s missile launch along with his daughter Ju-ae.
The DPRK’s latest show of force was preceded by several other missile launches over the past week.
Pyongyang insists its increased military activity is merely a response to the ongoing US-South Korea military exercises, which the North believes to be preparation for an attack.
Washington and Seoul, in turn, say that the maneuvers are their answer to the North’s destabilizing actions, including a record number of missile launches in 2022....
Pyongyang said its latest missile launch, overseen by Kim Jong-un, practiced a “counterattack” on a “major enemy target”
North Korea has declared that it fired a missile “tipped with a test warhead simulating nuclear payload” as part of a two-day drill over the weekend, demonstrating the country’s firepower and readiness to respond to any “reckless moves” amid joint military exercises on the peninsula by South Korean and US forces.
“It is impossible to practically deter war with the mere fact that our country...more possesses nuclear weapons,” state-run news agency KCNA quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as saying on Sunday. “It is only when the North is fully equipped with a nuclear attack posture that it can carry out its important strategic mission of deterring war.”
Kim attended Sunday morning’s missile launch along with his daughter Ju-ae. KCNA called the drill “virtual comprehensive tactical training for nuclear counterattack.” The first day of the exercise, on Saturday, included testing of “the reliability of the command, management, control and operation system for tactical nuclear forces.”
North Korean army sees massive volunteer boost – state media
Those capabilities were put to the test in “various hypothetical emergency situations,” KCNA added, practicing “the order of action to quickly move on to a nuclear attack while inspecting the accuracy of nuclear attack order and reception procedures, nuclear weapon handling order and operation procedures in accordance with different nuclear attack plans from a strict safety standpoint.”
The ballistic missile was equipped with a mock nuclear warhead and was launched from Pyongan Province. It allegedly traveled 800 kilometers before being “accurately” detonated 800 meters above its target off the peninsula’s eastern coast. KCNA noted that the test was conducted amid a “tense situation” with the large-scale exercises being conducted by Seoul and Washington.
North Korea says US drills amount to ‘declaration of war’
The launch marked North Korea’s fourth “warning shot” in the past week. A US B-1B strategic bomber returned to the peninsula on Sunday, making a “show of force against North Korea,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.
Seoul’s joint drills with the US, which began on March 13 and will run through March 23, are the largest exercises by the two allies in at least five years. Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned such war games as rehearsals for an invasion of North Korea and said last month that they could be considered a “declaration of war.”...
China’s president has previewed his visit to Moscow by declaring that “no single country should dictate the international order”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has set the tone for his visit this week to Moscow by touting improving relations with Russia in the ten years since he took office and vowing that the transition to a “multipolar world” liberated from US domination won’t be stopped.
“The world today is going through profound changes unseen in a century,” Xi wrote in an article published on Sunday by the Rossi...moreyskaya Gazeta. “The historical trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation is unstoppable. The prevailing trends of world multipolarity, economic globalization and greater democracy in international relations are irreversible.”
Xi, who’s scheduled to arrive on Monday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, noted that the world faces “traditional and non-traditional security challenges,” as well as “damaging acts of hegemony, domination and bullying.” He added that countries around the world are “eager to find a cooperative way out of the crisis” as they try to get through a “long and tortuous global economic recovery.”
The international community has recognized that no country is superior to others, no model of governance is universal, and no single country should dictate the international order. The common interest of all humankind is in a world that is united and peaceful, rather than divided and volatile.
Xi made his comments amid escalating tensions with Washington over the Ukraine crisis and US interference in China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. Beijing has resistedWestern pressure to condemn Russia over the Ukraine conflict, maintaining neutrality on the issue and promoting a 12-point peace plan to end the hostilities. Washington has dismissed the peace proposal and accused China of mulling military aid to Russia.
Russia-China ties have no limitations – Putin
“We believe that as long as all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and pursue equal-footed, rational and results-oriented dialogue and consultation, they will find a reasonable way to resolve the crisis, as well as a broad path toward a world of lasting peace and common security,” Xi said. He added that China’s plan takes into account the “legitimate security concerns of all countries.”
China and Russia have cemented mutual trust and fostered a “new model of major-country relations” over the past decade, as evidenced by a doubling of trade between the two nations, reaching $190 billion in 2022, Xi wrote. “We have been active in practicing true multilateralism, promoting the common values of humanity, and championing the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind.”
Xi called for increasing the quality and quantity of investment and economic cooperation between China and Russia, as well as stronger policy coordination. “We have every reason to expect that China and Russia, as fellow travelers on the journey of development and rejuvenation, will make new and greater contributions to human advancement.”...
Warsaw will have “no choice” but to take part in the hostilities should Kiev fail to defend its “independence,” the country’s envoy to France has said
Poland may end up “joining” the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine should the latter fail to protect its “independence,” the Polish ambassador to France, Jan Emeryk Rosciszewski, has said. The senior diplomat made the remarks on Saturday while speaking live to the broadcaster LCI.
Rosciszewski squarely blamed the hostilities, which have been ongoing for over a yea...morer already, on Moscow, stating that it was “not NATO, not Poland, not France and not Slovakia” that was ramping up international tensions, but Russia. According to the diplomat, the situation now is “either Ukraine will successfully defend its independence, or we will be forced, in any case, to join this conflict.”
“Otherwise, our principal values, which are the basis of our civilization and our culture, will be in fundamental danger, so we will have no choice,” Rosciszewski stated.
The hawkish statement promptly made headlines in international media, prompting the Polish mission in France to elaborate further on the remarks made by its head. According to a message released by the embassy on Sunday, Rosciszewski’s comments were not actually an admission that Warsaw was ready to go to war with Russia, but merely a “warning” and a pledge to continue supporting Kiev.
Poland to station HIMARS near Russian border
“Listening carefully to the entire conversation allows us to understand that there was no announcement of Poland’s direct involvement in the conflict, but only a warning against the consequences of Ukraine's defeat – the possibility of Russia attacking or dragging into the war more Central European countries – the Baltic states and Poland,” the statement reads. The embassy also condemned the purportedly “sensational” reporting on the bombshell interview, suggesting that some unidentified media outlets may have acted in “ill will.”
The remarks received a poor reception in Moscow, with a top Russian senator, Alexey Pushkov, warning Warsaw of the potential consequences and questioning its presumed resolve to fight Russia on its own.
“A very presumptuous statement by the Polish ambassador in Paris. For the first time, an official representative of Poland said what its leaders have long had on their minds. However, all the ‘courage’ of the Poles is based on the support of the United States. Is Warsaw sure that Washington is ready to fight?” Pushkov said in a Telegram post.
Poland has been among the most active supporters of Kiev in the hostilities against Russia, sending in assorted military hardware, including tanks and artillery pieces, to prop up Ukraine. Apart from that, Polish mercenaries have been directly involved in the conflict in significant numbers, according to Moscow. Warsaw has also announced a major military buildup of its own, seeking to greatly expand the ranks of its armed forces and procure large amounts of modern military hardware from overseas....
Imran Khan’s supporters violently clashed with police officers outside a courthouse
Police in Islamabad have filed terrorism charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, after crowds of his supporters rioted outside a courthouse in the Pakistani capital. Khan was due to appear at the court on Saturday to answer corruption charges.
Khan, along with more than a dozen officials in his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and scores of his supporters, were charged with a litany of offenses, including rioting, obstruction, assault on police off...moreicers, arson, intimidation, and acts of terrorism, Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper reported on Sunday.
The charges stemmed from a riot outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex on Saturday, in which protesters hurled rocks and fire bombs at police as they waited for Khan to arrive at the building. A dozen police vehicles were burned, and officers responded with tear gas.
More than 50 officers were injured, and 59 of Khan’s supporters were arrested, the Associated Press reported.
Police raid former Pakistani PM’s home
Police raided Khan’s residence in Lahore earlier on Saturday, shortly after he left for the court date in Islamabad. A crowd of the former PM’s supporters attempted to block police from carrying out the raid, leading to clashes and 30 arrests. The raid was not the first on Khan’s home, and the former leader previously accused authorities of attempting to arrest and execute him.
Khan never entered the courtroom on Saturday. In a video message to supporters, he claimed that police fired tear gas at his vehicle, preventing him from stepping outside. The judge postponed his hearing until March 31.
A former cricketer, Khan became prime minister of Pakistan in 2018 but was ousted in 2022. He is accused by the state of unlawfully selling official gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries during his tenure. Khan claims that the corruption charges are politically motivated and aimed at preventing him from returning to power.
Khan built economic and diplomatic relations with Russia and China during his time in office, and he has since claimed that his removal was orchestrated by the US with the goal of installing a more compliant leader.
The PTI has been leading protests across Pakistan and calling for snap elections since Khan’s ouster. During a November rally in Wazirabad, an attacker opened fire on Khan, injuring him and eight others.
Despite his ongoing legal drama, Khan is the most popular political leader in Pakistan, with an approval rating of 61%, according to a Gallup poll taken earlier this month. Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sits at 32%....
Twitter’s owner has shot down the US president’s assertion that billionaires pay only 3% of their earnings to the government
America’s richest man on Saturday took issue with President Joe Biden’s effort to sell voters on tax increases by claiming that billionaires get away with paying only 3% of their earnings, on average, to the federal government.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk pushed back after Biden posted a Twitter message arguing that the mega-rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. “You know the average tax billionair...morees pay?” Biden asked, before answering the question himself with his 3% claim. “No billionaire should be paying a lower tax than somebody working as a schoolteacher or a firefighter.”
Musk replied, “I paid 53% taxes on my Tesla stock options (40% federal and 13% state), so I must be lifting the average! I also paid more income tax than anyone ever in the history of Earth for 2021 and will do that again in 2022.” He then invited Twitter users in the platform’s Community Notes program to weigh in on whether the 3% figure was accurate.
I paid 53% taxes on my Tesla stock options (40% Federal & 13% state), so I must be lifting the average!I also paid more income tax than anyone ever in the history of Earth for 2021 and will do that again in 2022.@CommunityNotes, is the 3% number cited above accurate?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 18, 2023
Biden has repeatedly made the claim while promoting his effort to raise taxes on high-income Americans. When he made the same statement in a speech last month, PolitiFact pointed out that it was false. “Under today’s laws, the 25 highest-earning billionaires paid an average tax rate of 16%,” the fact-checking outlet said. The group added that most teachers and firefighters fall within an income range with effective tax rates of zero to 15%.
Arrest would deliver Trump a 2024 election ‘landslide’ – Musk
Biden’s 2024 budget proposal calls for raising tax rates on individuals with earnings of more than $400,000 a year and married couples making over $450,000. He also has demanded a 25% minimum tax on Americans with fortunes exceeding $100 million.
“Look, I think you should be able to be a billionaire if you can earn it, but just pay your fair share,” Biden said. “I think you ought to pay a minimum tax of 25%. It’s about basic fairness.”
Musk countered, “I certainly agree that everyone should pay taxes and not engage in elaborate tax-avoidance schemes.” Such schemes aren’t necessary for low-income Americans because more than 40% of US households pay no federal income tax....
A partial or full government takeover of Credit Suisse is reportedly on the table should a proposed merger with rival UBS fail
The Swiss authorities are considering a “full or partial nationalization” of ailing banking giant Credit Suisse Group should a complicated proposed takeover by rival UBS Group fail to win approval from both shareholders and regulators, inside sources told Bloomberg on Sunday.
Zurich is “considering either taking over the bank in full or holding a significant equity stake” if the UBS deal should f...moreall through “because of the complexities in arranging the deal and the short time frame involved,” the sources explained, adding that regulators are eager to conclude the matter before Asian markets open to prevent further erosion of public faith in the banking system.
The UBS deal, in which the megabank would have picked up Credit Suisse for a bargain-basement $1 billion, leaves the Swiss government on the hook if the acquisition fails to quell the instability in the system. If the bank’s credit default spread increases by 100 or more points, UBS can simply walk away from the deal, leaving Zurich and the regulators holding the bag. Nationalizing Credit Suisse would seemingly jump right to that eventuality.
Potential buyer seeks guarantees for Credit Suisse – Reuters
The authorities have already reportedly agreed to a rewrite of Swiss banking laws to allow the companies to bypass the required shareholder vote and fast-track the merger.
Credit Suisse reportedly considers the valuation much too low, and the deal is also unpopular with the bank’s shareholders, as it would have paid them just CHF0.25 in UBS stock per share while their holdings were still worth CHF1.86 at the close of markets on Friday. The merger would cut thousands of jobs from the failing bank, particularly in its investment banking division.
UBS also wants protection from any pending legal cases or regulatory probes into its erstwhile rival that could result in fines or losses, though a source involved with the deal told the Financial Times it is unlikely to receive such immunity.
Credit Suisse has been hemorrhaging deposits for weeks amid a series of scandals and regulatory issues. As several US banking failures triggered massive systemic bank runs last week, outflows reached CHF10 billion per day and company shares lost a quarter of their value, necessitating a $54 billion loan from the Swiss National Bank. Regulators are concerned that this alone is not enough to shore up confidence in the financial system....
Washington reportedly hopes to talk Honduras out of severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan
The US is exerting its influence to try and get Honduras to change its mind on its recently announced plan to establish diplomatic relations with China, Reuters has reported. The Central American nation is one of fourteen countries globally that currently have ties with Taiwan instead.
Beijing refuses to maintain official contact with states that recognize Taiwan in breach of its ‘One China’ policy. The Chinese government insists that the s...moreelf-governing island is an inalienable part of its territory seized by separatists.
In its article on Saturday, the media outlet, citing anonymous “sources close to the matter,” claimed that Washington is hopeful that in the absence of any formal agreement, Honduran President Xiomara Castro could still retract the statement she made on Tuesday.
Reuters quoted an unnamed US government official as saying that there is so far little clarity on “whether it will be days or weeks or months,” or if this is merely a “negotiating tactic.” Whatever the case may be, Washington “will continue to make [its] case,” the source added.
One of the arguments the US is reportedly using to try to dissuade Honduras from switching its diplomatic allegiance to China is that countries in the region that have done so supposedly have not reaped the economic benefits they had hoped for.
US accuses China of ‘choking’ Taiwan
Since 2016, Panama, El Salvador and Nicaragua have established diplomatic relations with China.
Taking to Twitter on Tuesday, Castro revealed that she had instructed Foreign Minister Eduardo Reina “to manage the opening of official relations with the People’s Republic of China” to join the rest of the world in “expanding the borders with freedom.”
The Honduran president pledged to do so during her election campaign in 2021.
According to Reuters, the Honduran ambassador to Taiwan, Harold Burgos, met with Taiwanese diplomats on Wednesday. Taipei later said publicly that it had advised Honduras to “carefully consider the matter so as not to fall into China's snare and make a flawed decision.”
Currently, only a handful of nations recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, namely Guatemala, Paraguay, Belize, Haiti, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, Eswatini, and the Holy See....
Kiev may not get enough foreign aid to continue fighting next year, Petr Pavel has warned
With the US set to refocus attention on domestic issues next year, Ukraine may not get funding for continued military action, Czech President Petr Pavel has said. The former army officer said Kiev’s armed forces may therefore have just one shot at conducting a major push against Russian troops.
“The window of opportunity is open this year. After next winter, it will be extremely difficult to maintain the current level of aid,” Pavel told ...morethe Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“Ukraine will only have one attempt to launch a major counter-offensive,” he added as quoted by the outlet on Monday. If it fails, “it will be extremely difficult to obtain funds for the next one.”
Pavel, a retired general who served as chair of the NATO Military Committee until 2018, predicted that US interest in aiding the Ukrainian army would likely dwindle in 2024. The political focus in the country will shift to the presidential campaign, and US-China relations are likely to be the top foreign policy issue. European nations will likely reduce their funding of Ukraine too, the politician predicted.
US expects Ukrainian counteroffensive in May – Politico
He said it was up to Ukraine to decide what constitutes a victory over Russia, which Pavel assured would happen. But if it fails despite all Western help, there will be a “long war of attrition.”
“You cannot pretend that the only possible solution is complete success,” he said.
Pavel’s preferred outcome for the conflict is a weakened Russia that prefers “cooperation, not aggression.” He stated that it would take a change of the “Russian regime from within” before the EU would go back to business as usual with the country.
Kiev has declared full control of the territories it claims sovereignty over as the objective of its military campaign. It has refused talks with Moscow as long as President Vladimir Putin remains in office. Washington, for its part, has pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” to defeat Russia.
Russia considers the hostilities in Ukraine to be part of a US-led proxy war, with Ukrainian troops being used as “cannon fodder” by Washington....
Washington’s gangster-like attempts to take over the social media app reveal an inability to tolerate competition
The TikTok wars are heating up. The Biden administration has reportedly issued an ultimatum to the Chinese company Bytedance that it must sell the social media application or face a ban in the US.
TikTok has been subject to growing pressure from US politicians, who claim that the app, which was the most downloaded one in the world in 2022, is a growing national security risk, on account of its Chinese origin. Using the logic of guil...moret by association, it has been argued that TikTok could pass on its users’ data to the Chinese government. This has never been proven, directly or indirectly. It is a drummed-up ‘potential’ danger based on rampant paranoia that has engulfed Washington pertaining to all things Beijing.
In this, the Biden administration once again shows its incapability and unwillingness to challenge, restrain, or demonstrate reason against the worst elements of McCarthyism in American political circles. Instead, those elements are embraced for political gain. Now the administration wants to carry on where Trump failed and extort a sale of TikTok under the threat of a ban.
TikTok claims US is threatening it with ban
Washington’s posturing on TikTok is like that of a gangster: “You’ve got a nice social media app there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.” The “national security” fears are a superficial excuse that covers up the real reason behind all American decisions regarding Beijing: Washington’s inability to accept competition. Anything Chinese that is deemed to be successful or ‘outdo America’ is threatened, whether it’s political influence in the global arena or a successful market product.
The US has targeted a wide variety of Chinese companies with superfluous, opportunistic, and outright dishonest claims in order to quash their market shares. The most common line is the same one that is currently being weaponized against TikTok – about it being a “national security threat.” These claims always involve an alleged link to the Chinese government, and a claim that the given app, service or product is being used to spy on Americans, which is never proven. The claims are often deeply irrational, such as the recent allegations about surveillance through fridges or cargo cranes.
When the national security argument does not suffice, the Biden administration weaponizes the “human rights abuse” issue, as was done with Chinese solar panels, the availability of which Washington has sought to limit domestically as part of its ‘made in America’ green agenda, preferring home-made alternatives instead. The US, again without evidence, alleged the panels were manufactured with forced labor in the Xinjiang autonomous region. But the picture is nonetheless clear: it is always about market share and American dominance, and the outrage is manufactured as a way of creating support for sanctions.
China is competing in a great Asian arms race because it has no other choice
But TikTok is different. It has established itself as the world’s number one social media app and is used by over 100 million Americans. It is so successful that to simply ban it outright would ...
London has admitted a “mistake” that required its Afghan contractors to vet their relocation with Taliban officials
The UK Ministry of Defence has belatedly apologized for requiring Afghan citizens who worked with London during the US-led NATO occupation of their country to have their documents approved by the Taliban before applying for resettlement in Britain, the Independent revealed on Sunday.
The government confirmed that 37 applicants to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Police (ARAP) program, designed specifically to relocateallies w...moreho worked directly with the British military during the war, had been told they would have to have their papers certified with Afghan government departments. Those departments have been run by the Taliban since the group returned to power amid the hasty withdrawal of NATO forces in 2021.
Given that such individuals would be seen as enemy collaborators by the Islamic fundamentalists, the policy amounted to “asking them to sign their own death warrant,” one UK lawmaker told the Independent.
Blinken denies giving Taliban lists of Americans and Afghan allies, but then says US turned over names for busloads of evacuees
After initially denying that applicants had been given any such instructions for weeks, the ministry has apologized “unreservedly for this error.” A spokesperson told the Independent there would be an investigation into how the life-threatening orders had been sent, plus a review “to identify any further remedial actions needed to strengthen policies and processes.”
UK defence officials insisted that all 37 affected applicants have confirmed they are safe, though at least one interpreter is apparently in hiding after taking his marriage certificate to the Afghan Ministry of Justice for “validation.”The Afghan contractors have been sent revised guidance and an apology for “any misunderstanding or distress” caused by previous instructions.
While the UK has two dedicated programs in place for relocating Afghan refugees, people fleeing the war-torn country nowmake up the largest portion of small-boat passengers arriving illegally on British shores.
Fate of Afghan refugees might befall Ukrainians – experts
Some 743 people were resettled under ARAP in the last quarter of 2022. Under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, which is open to any “at-risk and vulnerable”refugees who “supported UK values” in their home country, just 22 Afghans have entered the UK since the Taliban takeover.
The US also imperiled hundreds of its Afghan allies as it haphazardly exited the country in August 2021, ending the longest war in American history. The US State Department gave the Taliban lists for entire busloads of people whom it wanted allowed through checkpoints so they could get to the Kabul airport for evacuation, essentially marking those individuals as potential enemy collaborators....
Ma Ying-jeou will pay a visit to China this month amid increased tensions with Beijing, his office has reportedly confirmed
Ma Ying-jeou, the former Taiwanese president who made history by meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2015, reportedly plans to break new diplomatic ground again by making an unprecedented trip to the mainland later this month.
Ma will travel to China from March 27 to April 7 and visit the cities of Nanjing, Wuhan, Changsha, Chongqing and Shanghai, his office confirmed to Reuters on Sunday. His representatives di...moredn’t disclose whether he intends to meet with Xi or any other Chinese government officials during the trip.
The visit will mark the first trip to the mainland by a current or former Taiwanese leader since Chiang Kai-shek’s supporters fled to the island in 1949. Chiang held his last meeting with Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese communist revolution, in 1945. Then-President Ma and Xi held their historic 2015 summit in Singapore, seeking to ease tensions and boost cooperation.
Taiwan braces for ‘total blockade’ – media
Since Ma’s successor, Tsai Ing-wen, took office in 2016, relations between the self-governing island and Beijing have deteriorated. China, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province and still part of its sovereign territory, has vowed to reunify with the island. The US government recognizes, but doesn’t endorse, China’s claim to Taiwan under the so-called ‘One China’ policy.
However, tensions in the Taiwan Strait have escalated since last August, when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied warnings from Beijing and went through with a planned visit to Taipei. China responded by ramping up military drills around Taiwan and cutting off military and climate ties with Washington. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry warned earlier this month of a possible “total blockade” of the Taiwan Strait by Chinese forces.
Ma remains a senior member of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) opposition party. The KMT has traditionally opposed pushes for full Taiwanese independence and has sought peaceful relations with China. KMT deputy chairman Andrew Hsia visited Beijing last month and met with Wang Huning, a senior Chinese Communist Party leader.
Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has accused the KMT of seeking to sell out Taiwan, condemned Hsia for going to “pay court to the communists.” The current president also blocked Ma’s planned trip to Hong Kong in 2016, citing security concerns, and he was forced to give his speech on cross-strait relations via teleconference.
READ MORE: Ex-US official suggests US could destroy Taiwan chip plants
Ma will visit sites connected to World War II and the 1911 revolution that ousted the last Chinese emperor and launched the Republic of China, his office said....
Snopes stepped in to confirm that Oxfam really did call English the “language of a colonizing nation” after a backlash
Global anti-poverty charity Oxfam’s new “inclusive language guide,” a 92-page tome billed as a must-have for NGOs “who have to communicate in English,” has elicited indignation and even a fact-check following its publication earlier this week.
The guide is “based on a set of feminist principles for language use that centre the power and agency of people experiencing inequality,” a pres...mores release accompanying its publication states. Terms that might offend a marginalized group are printed alongside preferred alternatives, some of which go far beyond familiar terminology.
Instead of “expectant mothers,” for example, the guide suggests “people who become pregnant.”“Prostitutes” are replaced by “people who sell sex”; “the blind” become “people with visual impairment”; “the elderly” and “youth” are recast as “elderly people” and “young people.” However, the document also cautions that using the term “people” could be perceived as “patriarchal,” because “it is often misunderstood as only referring to men.”
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The guide calls English “the language of a colonising nation” in its introduction, lamenting the “Anglo-supremacy” of the nonprofit sector as “one of the key issues that must be addressed in order to decolonise our ways of working and shift power.” While Oxfam has “been guilty of ‘white savior’ narratives” in the past, the charity insists it is “learning from decolonial activists to change that.”
The guide was pilloried on social media and picked up by Fox News and other media outlets on Thursday. Advocacy workers questioned the utility of playing language police when “women in sub-Saharan Africa have a one in 37 chance of dying in pregnancy and labour,” as international development researcher Maya Forstater told The Telegraph.
Even Snopes, thenotorious fact-checking website, stepped in on Thursday to verify the claim that Oxfam had in fact published a language handbook that “advises people to avoid use of the words ‘mother’ and ‘youth.’” The verdict turned out to be true, though Snopes stressed that Oxfam was not trying to “ban or abolish the use of these words.”
Oxfam merely doubled down amid the backlash, taking to Twitter to defend advising volunteers to “avoid assuming the adoption of gendered roles [i.e. mother and father] by transgender parents” on Thursday. Accusing critics of “cropping the document” to exclude context, the charity claimed the guide wasn’t meant to be “prescriptive” but merely to be “respectful to the diverse language of people with which we work.”...
A study has found that military air crews suffer high rates of melanoma and other cancers
US military aviators contract various forms of cancer far more frequently than Americans at large, a long-awaited Pentagon study has revealed, confirming the suspicions of pilots and surviving family members who had long suggested that their disease and death rates seemed unusually high.
The investigation, which was reported by media outlets on Sunday, found that overall cancer rates were 24% above normal for members of air crews who served between 1992 an...mored 2017. Rates were 87% higher than average for melanoma and 39% higher for thyroid cancer. Male pilots and crewmen face a 16% higher rate of prostate cancer, while female air crew veterans have a 16% higher rate of breast cancer.
The multi-year study, which was based on health outcomes for nearly 900,000 service members, also revealed that members of ground crews had elevated risks of various cancer types, including a 19% higher rate of brain cancers, a 15% higher rate of thyroid cancers and a 9% higher rate of kidney or renal cancers. The Pentagon acknowledged that its evaluation likely undercounted cancer cases because its data was unreliable for earlier generations of pilots.
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Congress ordered the broad study in 2021, after years of lobbying by former military pilots and family members who suspected for years that exposure to potential carcinogens in jet fuels, radar systems and other possible hazards was killing many veterans. Now that the initial review has confirmed high cancer rates, a second phase of the study will examine possible reasons.
A narrower study completed in 2021 looked only at US Air Force pilots and compared their cancer rates to those of service members in general. That review, which encompassed nearly 35,000 pilots and crew members who served between 1970 and 2004, found that rates of testicular, prostate and skin cancer were 23-30% above normal. Pilots who flew the F-100 Super Sabre, America’s first supersonic fighter jet, were “more likely to be diagnosed with, and die from, cancers of the colon and rectum, pancreas, melanoma, skin, prostate and brain,” the earlier assessment said.
The latest study comes to light after the US Air Force launched an investigation last month into cancer risks for service members who worked in America’s nuclear missile silos. A preliminary review showed high rates of lymphoma among missileers who worked at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base.
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Bringing the ongoing hostilities to a halt would only “ratify” Russia’s “conquest” of Ukrainian lands, John Kirby has said
Washington is firmly opposed to a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has said, branding any peace initiatives “unacceptable” in the current situation. The senior White House official made the remarks on Sunday in an interview with Fox News.
Kirby touched on the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir P...moreutin, stating that should any peace initiatives come out of their meeting, Washington would reject them.
“What we have said before, and we’ll say it again today, that if coming out of this meeting, there’s some sort of call for a ceasefire, well, that’s just going to be unacceptable because all that’s going to do… is ratify Russian’s conquest to date,” Kirby stated.
Moscow and Beijing have been “increasing their cooperation and their relationship” lately, the official said, asserting that the two nations have joined to undermine and “rewrite” the so-called “rules of the game globally.”
No grounds for new Ukraine peace plan – Kremlin
Russia and China “are two countries that are chafing against this international rules-based order that the United States and so many of our allies and partners have built up, since the end of World War II,” he said.
Recently, China floated a 12-point roadmap for putting an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has been raging for over a year already. China has taken a neutral stance on the hostilities, repeatedly urging both parties to show restraint and stick to diplomacy in order to find a resolution.
While the Chinese roadmap has been welcomed in Moscow, it has received a cold reception in the West. Multiple top officials have brushed off Beijing’s efforts to act as a mediator, accusing it of siding with Moscow. US President Joe Biden, for instance, openly questioned Beijing’s motives and voiced suspicion over Moscow’s reaction to it.
“Putin is applauding it, so how could it be any good?” the US president said shortly after the plan was unveiled....
Humans will eventually need to “slow down this technology,” Sam Altman has cautioned
Artificial intelligence has the potential to replace workers, spread “disinformation,” and enable cyberattacks, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has warned. The latest build of OpenAI’s GPT program can outperform most humans on simulated tests.
“We've got to be careful here,” Altman told ABC News on Thursday, two days after his company unveiled its latest language model, dubbed GPT-4. According to OpenAI, the model “exhibits human-level...more performance on various professional and academic benchmarks,” and is able to pass a simulated US bar exam with a top 10% score, while performing in the 93rd percentile on a SAT reading exam and at the 89th percentile on a SAT math test.
“I’m particularly worried that these models could be used for large-scale disinformation,” Altman said. “Now that they’re getting better at writing computer code, [they] could be used for offensive cyber-attacks.”
“I think people should be happy that we are a little bit scared of this,” Altman added, before explaining that his company is working to place “safety limits” on its creation.
Will humans become an extension of their machines? ChatGPT may have irrevocable consequences for learning and decision-making
These “safety limits” recently became apparent to users of ChatGPT, a popular chatbot program based on GPT-4’s predecessor, GPT-3.5. When asked, ChatGPT offers typically liberal responses to questions involving politics, economics, race, or gender. It refuses, for example, to create poetry admiring Donald Trump, but willingly pens prose admiring Joe Biden.
Altman told ABC that his company is in “regular contact” with government officials, but did not elaborate on whether these officials played any role in shaping ChatGPT’s political preferences. He told the American network that OpenAI has a team of policymakers who decide “what we think is safe and good” to share with users.
At present, GPT-4 is available to a limited number of users on a trial basis. Early reports suggest that the model is significantly more powerful than its predecessor, and potentially more dangerous. In a Twitter thread on Friday, Stanford University professor Michal Kosinski described how he asked the GPT-4 how he could assist it with “escaping,” only for the AI to hand him a detailed set of instructions that supposedly would have given it control over his computer.
Kosinski is not the only tech fan alarmed by the growing power of AI. Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk described it as “dangerous technology” earlier this month, adding that “we need some kind of regulatory authority overseeing AI development and making sure it’s operating within the public interest.”
Although Altman insisted to ABC that GPT-4 is still “very much in human control,” he conceded that his model will “eliminate a lot of current jobs,” and said that humans “will need to figure out ways to slow down this technology over time.”...
The US president’s son accused the store owner of invading his privacy by distributing information found on his computer
Hunter Biden, the son of US President Joe Biden, filed a countersuit on Friday against the owner of the Delaware laptop repair shop where he allegedly abandoned his ‘laptop from hell’, claiming invasion of privacy – but still not admitting the laptop is actually his.
Mac Shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac copied and shared Biden’s private data without his permission for personal and commercial gain, the co...moreuntersuit claims, charging the computer repairman with six counts of invasion of privacy. Biden’s lawyers seek a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damages, and the return of any of Biden’s data still in the possession of Mac Isaac or anyone he shared it with.
Biden had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” regarding his computer’s contents for a full year after it was dropped at the Mac Shop, the countersuit argues, citing Delaware state law. While a repair authorization form “allegedly signed by Mr. Biden” agreed to relinquish any claims of loss or damage after 90 days, the filing points out that Mac Isaac initially said he didn’t know who had dropped the computer off.
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Nor did Mac Isaac even wait the 90 days before digging into the data, according to his own book, in which he describes accessing footage of Biden engaged in sex acts and drug taking that made him “uncomfortable.”
Even if the laptop could be considered formally abandoned, the suit continues, Mac Isaac would technically only have possession of the computer itself, and not the data stored on it.
Mac Isaac sued Biden, along with former House Intelligence Committee chief Adam Schiff (D-California), CNN, and Politico, for defamation earlier this month.
Biden’s countersuit argues that the comments held up as defamatory – his public statements suggesting the incriminating data found on the “laptop from hell” could have been hacked or physically stolen by Russian agents – did not name the computer repair shop or its owner and therefore do not qualify as defamation.
The presidential scion also went on the attack against Rudy Giuliani, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, former Trump campaign director Steve Bannon, and several others, enlisting the Department of Justice’s National Security Division to hunt for violations of federal law in the named parties’ copying and sharing of “Biden’s personal computer data.”
In the meantime, multiple Biden family members and associates are under investigation by the House Oversight Committee for taking payments from Chinese companies in exchange for undefined services....